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Stray Dogs – A serial killer story with bark

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You go to hospital for a small procedure. Despite all the reassurance from people around you, you can’t stop shaking. Something feels “off.” The doctor puts you under. When you wake, you’re in an unfamiliar house with a bunch of strangers. They’re generally kind, but you’re scared and disorientated. Especially when you’re told that this strange place is home.

Now imagine you’re a little dog.

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Because that’s exactly the situation that Sophie, an anxious little Papillon, finds herself in during the first issue of Stray Dogs, a brand new miniseries from Image Comics. Described as Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the Lambs – and you don’t get a more attention-grabbing elevator pitch than that – Stray Dogs has been co-created by My Little Pony comics veterans Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner. They’re joined on the five-issue series by colourist Brad Simpson and layout artist Tone Rodriguez.

With every fourth streaming series and podcast centred on true crime, it can’t be easy to come up with a fresh take on the subject of serial killers. Fleecs, Forstner and co. have done that, though, by approaching their story from the unusual perspective of pets who become the murderer’s trophies. Plus, the comic creators have visually styled their tale after 1980s Don Bluth movies. Think All Dogs Go to Heaven, and Disney’s Oliver and Company from the same period.

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In this comic universe, where human depiction is largely limited to hands and feet, Sophie finds herself in a remote farmhouse with several other dogs. This motley collection of canines accepts that they were abandoned by their previous owners, and rescued by The Master, who treats them with kindness. Sophie, who is closer to her previous life than the others, is unwilling to accept that narrative, claiming that the Master killed her mistress. Upset by these accusations, pack leader Rusty swears to uncover the truth, even if that means breaking into Master’s Forbidden Room.

Stray Dogs isn’t the first comic to feature dogs as detectives. Dark Horse Comics’ Beasts of Burden, created by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, debuted a band of paranormal investigator pets back in 2003. That said, Stray Dogs is very much its own unique thing, even if its first issue functions as little more than a set-up for the story to come. That makes it difficult to offer a comprehensive review at this point.

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What can be said from the outset, though, is that Stray Dogs features a promising concept, and the first issue is confidently executed in all departments. Adding further interest is the book’s exploration of canine memory, which is different from its human equivalent. Fleecs has stated in interviews that Christopher Nolan’s Memento was one of the inspirations while writing Stray Dogs, and in Issue #1 that comes through strong in Sophie’s amnesia, and general inability to structure a timeline of recent events.

Stray Dogs is different, and intriguing; and if it didn’t have enough selling points already, each issue features a variant cover modelled after hit horror films.

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Stray Dogs Issue #1 is out this week. Meanwhile, a Stray Dogs movie adaptation is already in development.

Last Updated: February 23, 2021

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